Many people come to lawyers very quickly after they feel they have been wronged. Although this is VERY important to do as there are a number of time limits, procedures and things that need to occur very shortly after being your property is injured; it is important to ask yourself a few questions before calling MCV so we can help. Over the next few months, I will be walking you through the steps and questions that are important to know and to think about as you wish to pursue a civil litigation matter.
STEP 1: Liability
The first and most important issue to discuss, is also many times the most difficult to determine, liability, or in other words, WHO IS AT FAULT?
Why can this most straightforward question be one of the most difficult?
(1) Is it a natural person or company?
This becomes difficult because you might interact with the same person every time you need something but they may only be acting on behalf of their employer. “John Doe” may just be the face of the company, so it would be easy to claim he is the liable party when it may be the company even if HE did something wrong. Think of it this way, when you paid him, did you write his name on the check or a company, if it was the company, he is unlikely the proper defendant.
This distinction is not the easiest to see, which is where MCV comes in; but knowing there is a difference allows for a more productive discussion.
(2) What acts caused the damage?
There has to be an event in which your property was damaged and knowing exactly what event caused the damage allows us here at MCV to narrow down the culpable parties. In some circumstances, there may be multiple events that lead to your damage, and we will go after all those involved, but most times there is one event at the crux of the damage. An example of a direct cause is; in the cold Syracuse winters if the tenants had turned on the heat during the 0-degree day the pipes wouldn’t have frozen. In this situation it is easy to see the correlation of heat to frozen water pipes, therefore liability can be seen directly, but others such as what caused the car to fail (is it mechanical, was it the dealership, was it the mechanic who serviced it?) may be a little more difficult. Seeing the proper event at the root of the damage will allow MCV to see exactly who did you wrong, which is key in advocating for your interests.
(3) Did I have any involvement in the damage (don’t worry it doesn’t necessarily end your case)
The next issue I am going to address is whether or not you may have some responsibility, and although this is not an issue that many want to address with themselves or clients, here at MCV we treat each case with a realistic and pragmatic approach. We understand that people are human and mistakes are made, but that shouldn’t stop you from coming into the office. Don’t let a little doubt about something you may have done to stop you from speaking to us. Now, I will say that there are times that your actions can prevent recovery, but in New York State depending on the degree of fault you may still recover for at least part of your losses. Courts are allowed to proportion the damage based on the percentage of fault, in other words, if you were 10% at fault you may be able to recover 90% of your damages.
In conclusion, it is important to think about who wronged you, but come in and see us because it is our job to look at your case and find ways we can help. Come in with an open mind and allow us to evaluate your case and knowing why we will ask the questions we do will put you at ease and allow us to have a more fruitful and honest discussion about your case.
Next month I will be looking at what kind of damages you have suffered (monetary, property, physical or emotional).